Stitt aims for four

Taree trainer Ross Stitt
Taree trainer Ross Stitt

FIVE-year-old local gelding Southern Shimmer looms as the one to beat in the $60,000 Taree Motorama/XXXX Gold Taree Cup (2000m) at Taree-Wingham Race Club’s major TAB meeting of the season at Bushland Drive Racecourse on Sunday.

A win would give Taree trainer Ross Stitt his fourth cup win and Australia’s most winning jockey, Robert Thompson, of Cessnock, his third.

But to do so they will need luck in running against some stiff opposition from many parts of NSW and Sydney as Southern Shimmer can be his worst enemy as he likes to get back in the field early before making his run.

It will take a Thompson special ride to get Southern Shimmer home as the gelding has drawn the outside barrier in the big field.

Also, due to the failure of the top-weight Gazza Guru not accepting to be reserved for Sydney, Southern Shimmer’s allotted weight has gone up two kilos and the rest of the field has been scaled accordingly. 

Since the gelding’s “freshen up” run in the Taree Cup Prelude a fortnight ago,the gelding hasn’t put a foot wrong in his work.

“He’s done good - more than happy with him,” Stitt said.

He said that Southern Shimmer’s no wins in nine starts this preparation were based on bad luck with its Grafton Cup run being the only disappointing one, that being in July.

“All he has to do is bring his form from when he was second to Sour Mash in Sydney to be really hard to beat.”

On that occasion Southern Shimmer stormed home from the rear to be beaten less than a length at Warwick Farm before running sixth at Grafton over 2350m, some pundits saying that the gelding may have found the journey too long on that occasion.

Southern Shimmer hasn’t a win over 2000m on his form sheet but he has been winning near enough to those distances and in all he has eight wins from 28 starts for prizemoney nearing $200,000.

Stitt’s previous winners were Shoemaker in 2001, Fun Road in 1988 and Critic’s Pride the year before whereas Thompson was successful on Black Benson in 1989 and Royal Marine the next year.

Southern Shimmer’s preparation has been aimed at this year’s cup and the gelding gets his chance with a competitive weight.

This year’s race is full of chances and one of them which deserves a change of luck is eight-year-old Moonbi gelding Blinkin Easy which beat Southern Shimmer home in the Grafton Cup and has been runner-up in the Taree Cup the past two years.

Last year Blinkin Easy, trained by Ruth Cooper, came from the outside barrier, was always in touch with the leaders and failed by a nose with victory going to Taree’s Island Dane in a ding-dong battle all down the straight.

Blinkin Easy is owned by Tamworth breeder Errol French who has had many gallopers win under Stitt’s mentoring but this gelding was given to Cooper as a youngster to try and mend its wayward antics.

Since last year’s cup, Blinkin Easy has won three races,the last one over 1400m at Tamworth on Monday, to register 14 wins and $212,000 in prizemoney.

“Maybe it will be third time lucky,” Cooper said.

“He had a hard hit out at Tamworth and he will be right up there again.”

Wyong trainer Tracey Bartley said of the handicap for his five-year-old mare Surpassing: “Beautiful.”

Since winning the Taree Cup Prelude he couldn’t be happier with his mare’s progress and the weight helps her as she is relatively small.

“All is well - she has trained on good,” he said.

Another Sydney trainer, Con Karakatsanis, said that although his five-year-old gelding Nothing Like Luca is having its first run over the distance, a jockey who has ridden the galloper feels it should be suited.

“The horse was overracing but now is the time to give him a crack at the journey,” he said.

Six-year-old gelding Savage Blaze, trained at Broadmeadow by Darren Smith, is a dour stayer with a win at Taree in weaker class and could be in the mix whereas Coffs Harbour’s Toucan Ukelele, trained by Brett Bellamy, has been in such good form this campaign with a string of wins, one of them here recently, that the gelding could be a big hope at longer odds.

Last year’s Cup winner Island Dane has had an interrupted preparation but is nicely down in the weights and is still on the improve to take a hand for local trainer Nick Chambers.

The gelding likes to be up front and this may be to his advantage in this big field.

It is such an even bunch on the minimum that most of them can figure but on perceivd class it should be a home town win - with luck!